The 2A3 Tube Amplifier - A Tribute to Simplicity and Warm Sound February 15 , "There is nothing quite like a quality tube amplifier," states the author in the introduction to this directly heated triode amplifier project. The author chose the 2A3 directly heated triode power tube to implement the Loftin-White circuit. The 2A3 vacuum tube is a power triode capable of outputting 3. This article was originally published in audioXpress, August
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To compare the two tube combinations on equal footing, I again checked for output differentials and found that the TJ 45 combo needed to add one click on the Tom Evans Audio Design Vibe preamplifier volume control to match the sound pressure level of the Sovtek 2A3 setup. Having established that offset adjustment, I continued my listening sessions to see how the swap affected sound and music-playing ability.
Ray Charles passed from this life at the age of 73 while I was doing my listening sessions. With the TJ 45, this was a lush, warm and mellow recording of songs about love and romance, with a little humor thrown in for good measure.
You could hear little noises coming from the right channel that sounded like creaking chairs or perhaps Betty bumping the microphone.
The Sovtek was a little more dynamic but cast a lesser sense of space. The music per se was awesome with both sets of tubes but I marginally preferred the TJ s to the Sovteks on this album. Bass was big and boomy and vocals had a slight edge.
The drum work kept the rhythm churning and the hi-hat sounded like it should. The TJ created more space, better resolution of fine detail, slightly keener articulation, less stridency on vocal peaks and recovered low-level lead guitar work that was entirely absent with the Sovteks.
Microdynamic nuances were better resolved but traded at the expense of macro dynamics. On this recording, the TJs were significantly better than the Sovteks, excelling in every way though everything shifted up to be slightly brighter through the upper midrange. Musical involvement for the TJs was up a notch too which is saying something - the Sovteks are very good in this regard.
These 45s provide a punchy and articulate bass but with less weight than the Sovteks - same extension, just not as much mass. Don Garber sent me the ones I have now from his personal stash so maybe you should check with Don and see if he can steer you in the right direction. However, they are extremely good-sounding and provide a pleasing and different presentation from the Sovteks that might suite you to a TJ. Their mesh plates provide quite an astonishing light show, producing that glow-in-the-dark-allure an order of magnitude more than the Sovtek which almost looks boring by comparison.
The TJ mesh plate 45s have been completely reliable in operation while, if the underground buzz is correct, other brands of 45 mesh plates tend to self-immolate - so be warned. In fact, I inquired with all the 45 mesh plate tube vendors I was aware of for samples to produce a tube comparison article. None elected to participate except for Brian Cherry. There might be a reason who only Brian was confident enough in his tubes to give them to the press? If the 45 sounds this good in a circuit not optimized for it, it makes you wonder what the TJ 2A3 mesh plates might sound like.
Sadly, the first sample of the A 45 got crunched during a shipping accident and needed to be replaced which delays the review. A new amp is on its way so stay tuned.
Breaking news! As I was writing this very paragraph, there was a knock on the door. When I opened it, there was a courier with a new Yamamoto! I think the Fi 2A3 monaural amplifiers are one of the milestones in the history of American audio amplification. What Don said about early American tube amplifiers in his original Fi store placard applies to the Fi monos in spades: "They have a clear, open and spacious sound.
Not thin and electronic. Look at them. They glow in the dark. They have character. All parts, tubes especially, are readily available.
I am astonished at the amount of recovered detail, the holographic soundstaging qualities and the incredibly emotive and expressive performance.
The Fi amps are priced very fairly given that they are entirely made to order. They offer extraordinary quality and performance. They make a unique visual statement in the world of audio. His speakers are gorgeous creations. It would look completely at home with a classic set of McKinnon Mission style hand crafted furniture, for example.
These amps are art, after all. They come across as both political and artistic statement: Political in that the Fi represents an exclamation point! The crisis became so severe that over 6, gutsy women marched on Paris, seized the royal family and demanded that they be provided bread and grain for their families.
If the HighEnd is the audio embodiment of the arrogant Marie Antoinette, then Fi is the sensible Samuel Gompers who observed that people wanted practical things that made their life better: "We want more school houses and less jails, more books and less guns, more learning and less vice, more leisure and less greed, more justice and less revenge. We want more opportunities to cultivate our better nature. It makes you want to devote more of your life to the leisure of enjoying music and less time to the treadmill of greed and achievement that has become the American way.
Ultimately, it enhances your better nature as a result. The Fi products which Don Garber hand fashions in his Brooklyn workshop are more than HiFi products - they are a thoughtful statement on music, value, politics, art and a sensible life. Don adds that "there will be, sometime in the future, a new catalog as well as a website though holding your breath could be dangerous.
The 2A3 Tube Amplifier - A Tribute to Simplicity and Warm Sound
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Vacuum Tube - 2A3, Sovtek